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Digital Natives with a Cause? —Workshop in Santiago — an Afterthought

Posted by Samuel Tettner at Feb 13, 2011 11:15 PM |
The Digital Natives had their third and final workshop in Santiago, Chile from 8 to 10 February 2011. Once again CIS and Hivos joined hands to organise the event. Samuel Tettner, Digital Natives Coordinator from CIS narrates his experiences from the workshop in this blog post.

For three days, from 8 to 10 February, I spent most of the days and almost one full night at the Digital Natives with a Cause? Workshop. The day before the workshop, I met the facilitators: Kara, Pedro and Juan-Manuel. All three of them were quite enthusiastic with each one specializing on an aspect of the research objectives. That night, I had my first formal meeting with the participants in the conference room of Hotel Windsor in Santiago.  It is always fascinating to meet a large group of people, especially since you have been corresponding with them for a couple of weeks, have read about them and their projects, made images in your head of how they look, how they act, how they will get along with each other and so on. 

I was particularly excited about the workshop in Santiago since it presented itself to me an opportunity to re-connect with a side of Latin America that I had not experienced. I moved from Venezuela to the United States at the age of 15. I don’t know about everyone else, but when I was 15, I was mostly interested in music, movies, my friends, fast cars, video games, and a whole lot of the nonsense stuff. Meeting these highly motivated young men and women from all over the American continent and the Caribbean islands allowed me to connect with the more nuanced and matured side of my identity— a side that had only heard English spoken to it.

The actual workshop took place at the Biblioteca de Santiago, a library in Santiago, a beautiful modern building, with an architecture that rivalled the best libraries I ever saw in the world. Our local partner  Rising Voices, had done an incredible job of organizing the logistics. The workshop opened with an ice-breaking exercise that unlike most ice-breaking exercises required some neural movement. Participants were asked to come up with a word that described their practice, politics or ideology. You see the workshop participants were young people who engage with digital technologies to create social and political change. I chose my word ‘innovation’ mainly because it’s an idea that’s been hunting my day-dreams lately, but also because I knew it would elicit interesting responses. I briefly sat down with Luis Carlos from Peru and Joan from the Dominican Republic, whose words were ‘stories’ and also ‘creative’. A blog post about that experience can be found here.

Afterwards we had the pleasure of hearing from Juan-Manuel, the facilitator from Mexico. Juan-Manuel talked about issues of participation, motivation to do social change, impact of our engagements and other social change related processes. He left us with three big questions that stayed with us for the rest of the afternoon:

  • What is our motivation to do social work? Where does it come from? Where does it end? How did it start? Can it be replicated?
  • What is incidence / impact? How can one measure impact?
  • What does one need to know to create social impact?

I got in a group with Adolfo from Nicaragua, Maria Del Mar from Paraguay, Karl from Haiti and Julio from Chile. Kara was our facilitator for the discussion. A blog post about that experience by Maria Del Mar can be found here.  After discussing for about one hour, we made a white paper that visually illustrated` our discussion. We decided to make a word / concept cloud and mix it with a collage. That was it. With a lot of anticipation and nervousness the first day of our workshop ended.

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Oh wait! I forgot to add a small detail, that day Nishant also taught us how to do a Bollywood dance. I didn’t take any pictures, but I hope someone did!

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On the second day, Pedro Markun from Brazil opened the floor with a thought-provoking presentation. Unfortunately, I missed most of the presentation, but if one is to judge by the tweets, it was very inspiring. After the presentation, we participated in a bar camp. During this activity participants proposed the topics for discussion, out of which we selected five to focus on. I decided to join the conversation about ‘digital rights’, a topic proposed by Andres from Venezuela. Brendon from Trinidad and Tobago, Luis Carlos and Roberto from Peru, and Joan from the DR also participated in this discussion. I wrote a small blog about my opinion on this conversation here.

During the second half of the day, the process was reversed and instead of us participants writing down concepts we wanted to talk about, five words were written on the board: mobilization, network building, awareness, campaigns, and representation. This activity, called HOW DO YOU SPELL PROCESS? asked us to choose the word with which we identify the most; it could be the word we know the most about, or the least about, or the word we’re most interested in implementing in our practice. I joined the mobilization group, because part of the job as the community manager for the Digital Natives project involved motivating the members, involving them in other’s ideas, helping them connect with greater initiatives – all ideas that I think connect with mobilization issues. I sat down with Maria Carmelita from Argentina, Brendon from T&B and Francisco from Chile.

After we were all settled in the group plenary after this activity, Fieke had a dictatorial proclamation to make: we then had around 12 hours to make a visual presentation (a video, a play, a sketch and others) about our discussions during HOW DO YOU SPELL PROCESS?

I met Brendon, Francisco, and Carmelita shortly after for dinner and the planning of our video. We decided to have an Indian night, which is ironic since I now live in India, yet the experience was very interesting: I tried ‘curry’ for the first time in my life!  For our video, we decided to make a cheesy, 1984-esque “how to” video to change the world through mobilization. The video can be found here. Check out the other videos as well, they all are quite interesting and thought-provoking.

Finally, on the third day after a showing of the videos and plays, the last facilitator, Kara from Guatemala, shared with us her personal journey into her social commitment. From growing up in a banana plantation in Guatemala, to her use of digital technologies to raise funds to build a house for her uncle, Kara’s story inspired all in attendance. Kara told her story through a specific framework, which was named the Matrix. The Matrix consisted of re-framing one’s story through four lenses: dream, discovery, design and destiny. We then broke into groups and reflected into our own journeys with technology using the same framework.

In the end, we all went to a nice restaurant and had a common dinner. I love those tables of over 20+people; you can switch seats and change conversations instantly. Overall, the workshop was a huge learning experience. I was able to meet some similar people from Latin America, and better understand the cultural context of the intersection of technology and the social and the political spheres. With the last workshop now over, we have collected a plethora of research materials which we will analyze during the second phase of the Digital Natives with a Cause? project. The journey still continues.

Thanks to all of you who made the experience Possible!.

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For info on schedule of events, organisers and participants, click here

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Samuel Tettner

The child of Jewish Romanian immigrant and Italian-Venezuelan parents, Samuel has always had an eclectic identity and personality. At age 15, he emigrated to the United States and went on to study public policy with a concentration on philosophy, science & technology. Since January 2010, Samuel resides in India, where he co-coordinates the Digital Natives with a Cause? project. His interests include information and innovation systems, technology-enabled education, knowledge networks, and all that is open-source, collaborative and dynamic.